SEO Diagnosis for non SEOs

Note: This post was formerly called SEO Diagnosis Dinosaur, but I’ve recently changed it (2013 - Jan) because it was dumb :)

Professional SEO agencies receive quite a few enquiries when something goes wrong. Maybe you’ve noticed a traffic drop or something funny in search results, then panic sets in, and you call an SEO agency for help.

A doctor could diagnose your illness much faster if you gave him specific information, the same goes for SEO consultants who might spend working hours figuring out something you should have told them from the start.

The SEO Diagnosis Dinosaur (the tool below in this post) will run through a sample set of questions and checks that you should be doing before you contact professionals. By going through the list of questions, and clicking on the output button - we’ll auto-magically give you the information you need to give to an SEO.

Instructions

  • Read the questions and click on the appropriate answer in the radio boxes (little circles)
  • You can press the Clear button at any time to start over
  • At the bottom of the form you can click on the Output button to get your information

1. Did you notice a problem with your Analytics or Google

Did you see a drop in your Analytics platform, or did you notice a problem with rankings in Google search results?

2. Is your analytics platform reporting properly?

For Google Analytics users, please download the GA Debugger and follow these instructions, then come back and answer this question. If you’re using Omniture or other platforms, please consult your representative.

Sometimes paid traffic (example:Adwords) can appear in Organic reports, please double check this.

Is your Analytics reporting correctly?

2. Have you double checked that your rankings have actually dropped?

Sometimes we panic because a rank tracker or an actual Google search shows incorrect results. This can happen for a variety of reasons including problems with SEO tools and personalization in search results

It’s best to double check this is actually happening, here’s one way:

Using Google Chrome:

  • Go into incognito mode (CTRL + SHIFT + N)
  • Please make sure you’re not signed in
  • Perform your search in your specific country - If you’re a UK business, go to http://www.google.co.uk
  • Notice the location setting on the left hand side. Try changing locations and write down the results

Did your rankings actually drop?

3. Looks like you have a problem. Is it affecting pages or keywords?

The first step is to check your Analytics platform for drops. The instructions below are primarily for Google Analytics, although *most Analytics platforms contain the same type of reporting.

1. Checking page problems

  • Log in to your Analytics Platform and go to your organic traffic report
  • You’ll need to guess some timelines, start with current week versus last week
  • Set your primary dimension (filter) to landing page. Look for unnatural drops among the pages
  • Is it single pages? Is it a folder group? Please note this.

2. Checking keyword problems

  • Log in to your Analytics Platform and go to your organic traffic report
  • You’ll need to guess some timelines, start with current week versus last week
  • Set your primary dimension (filter) to keywords. Look for unnatural drops among the keywords
  • Are they branded keywords, or non branded? Please note this.
  • Filter your report to only include the problem keywords
  • We need to associate these keywords with pages, if possible, add landing pages as a secondary dimension so you can get a better idea of what’s going on
  • Are these keywords from the same page? Group of pages? Please note this.

Page Level Checks

The following are a simple set of base checks you can do, but are not completely comprehensive. You may find some problems during your checks but if you’re unable or not confident in fixing them, you may want to seek help

Check robots.txt

  • Go to this page and enter in the affected page URL
  • If you see Access Allowed, you’re fine and this check is complete.
  • If you see Access Blocked, this means that Googlebot can’t get to the page.
  • you’ll need to remove the robots.txt block from that page to fix it.

Check for NOINDEX

  • Go to the affected page and open the source code (CTRL + U on Google Chrome)
  • Search for (CTRL + F on Chrome) for “NOINDEX” without quotes
  • If you find NOINDEX it in the source code, this could be the problem
  • NOINDEX tag will prevent this page from appearing in search, you’ll need to remove it.

Check for response codes ( here’s a handy chart for beginners)

  • Go to this page and enter the affected page URL
  • The top line will say HTTP/1.1 then followed by a 3 digit number
  • If the 3 digit code is 200, you’re fine
  • If the 3 digit code is 301 or 302, check the Location line for the new location of the page. Note this.
  • If the 3 digit code is 404, 410, 500 - your website may be experiencing server side problems or missing pages

Check for canonical tag

  • Go to the affected page and open the source code (CTRL + U on Google Chrome)
  • Search for (CTRL + F on Chrome) for (rel=“canonical”) without brackets
  • If you find the canonical it in the source code, this could be the problem
  • If the rel=“canonical” href=“URL” points to anything other than the page you’re currently on, the current page may not appear in search results.

Keyword level problems

This is probably best left in the hands of professionals

We could be looking at a penalty, algorithm update or even something more complicated. However, there are certain things you should tell the SEO agency right away:

  • Have you done article marketing, directory link building or paid for links?
  • Have you ever been penalized before?
  • If you have Google Webmaster tools set up, have you received any messages?
  • What changes have you made to your website in the last week/months ?

Hopefully this helps a few people, thanks for reading. A special thanks to Naz who introduced me to JQUERY 36 hours ago, and Tom for saving me from dumb coding errors